This week was quiiiiite different than the last 2 weeks. We had a snow day on Monday, a final exam on Tuesday (which consisted of cutting a whole chicken, identifying 50 products and a written exam) and started a new class on Wednesday. Having exams for a degree that you are getting purely for the knowledge, not for a GPA, is SO much different than exams I took in college. This degree is way more hands on and skills based, whereas dietetics was way more knowledge and intellect based. It’s super different and requires a shift in how I think about grades and learning and what I want to get out of this year.
SO this week instead of throwing around different meats, we were throwing around different pastry doughs. And lotsa butter and sugar. Which can only mean one thing- it’s baakkkinngggg time!
If you’ve been around here for awhile, then you KNOW that baking ain’t my thang. The precision and accuracy required just really grinds my gears. But considering I get graded on my precision and accuracy in this class, it has forced me to tune into such skills!
This class is also super different than the last class because of how much production we do (production is their fancy word for “making insane amounts of food”). In one day we learn and make 4 different items. And for everything you make, you must try. And what’s amazing about culinary school is that if you make biscuits, you won’t just eat plain biscuits. Chef wants you to eat it the most delicious way possible, so for biscuits, we melted butter and made honey butter and drizzled those over the biscuits and then ate them. One thing I’ve come to really appreciate about chefs is that they don’t half ass anything. They’re all in on everything, striving for perfection in every dish, every measurement, every iron in a chef coat.
So the first day for production we made biscuits. I learned that the key to really good biscuits, is really big chunks of cold butter, and little “handling” of the dough to keep the layers that you fold into the dough in tact. I’m not typically a biscuit person, but I had THREE of these biscuits. You could say I’m a biscuit person now.
We also learned how to properly roll and tie rolls. Chef made the dough as a demo and then we rolled the dough. There is a specific technique where you cup your hand and make a c shape motion to get the dough ball into a perfect circle with no blemishes. For the tied rolls, you roll the dough into a 10 inch piece, tie it in a knot and then tuck the ends in opposite directions. Let the rolls rise, give them an egg wash and sprinkle them with sesame seeds and then bake them off.
We also made focaccia pizzas aka the thickest pizza I have ever seen. To make focaccia, you use your fingertips to poke holes in the dough while simultaneously spreading the dough out across the pan. When handling any kind of dough, over mixing it or over using your hands can cause the dough to become tough, so doing the minimum amount of touching and mixing is best.
Again, a prime time example of a chef going all in. A simple pepperoni pizza wouldn’t suffice- we added spinach and onions and 3 different kind of cheeses and topped it off with an herb oil. And this was made just for us to eat in class for lunch! “Perfect practice makes perfect” is their motto.
Day 2 we started the day off immediately by making dough for rolls. Since your schedule is pretty determined by the rising of the dough there’s really not a lot of time to waste. You make one dough and while you are waiting for that to rise you make another and go back and forth between products all day.
I found this super interesting- when making dough for bread, you have to calculate what the temperature of the water needs to be based on the temperature of the flour, the temperature of the room, and the amount of friction you are adding in the kneading process. There’s a whole formula to calculate the temperature based on all of these things- details, details, details!
While we were waiting for the dough of the rolls to rise, we learned how to make pie crust. Similar to the biscuits, the key to a good pie crust is the chunk size of the butter and really cold water.
Depending on what kind of pie you are making, sometimes you have to partially bake the crust before adding the filling so that everything will finish baking at the same time. This is the case for quiche. So what we did was cover the pie crust with parchment paper and then add dry beans on top to keep the dough pressed down. We baked it for about 20 minutes and then added the filling to make a traditional quiche lorainne (which is traditionally a quiche filled with gruyere, ham or bacon and spinach).
Another technique I learned was how to properly use a rolling pin. Usually I put all of my might into pressing it down as hard as possible onto the dough to get it spread out as quickly as possible. But what you are supposed to do is let the weight of the rolling pin do the work, and move it in small feathery movements to, slowly but surely, spread the dough.
While we were waiting for the quiche to bake, we made muffins. The reasons we make so many different products is because each one requires a different stirring method. The biscuits is the rubbing method, the muffins use the combination method and the cookies the creaming method. Seriously who knew there were so many different ways to stir together food.
We still have tons more baked goods to learn next week before going on Christmas break so stayyyyy tuned.
Thanks for reading!